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The Power of Habit: Emotional Connection vs. Convenience

hab·it

/ˈhabət/

noun

 

  1. a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

 

We are creatures of habit. From the moment we get up in the morning, our habits begin to affect how we function. Think about your morning routine – the order in which you perform your daily rituals. Whether it involves hygiene, beverage of choice, breakfast, reading materials, or checking your social channels, there is a developed tendency that provides order and comfort. This concept of how habits are formed, as it relates to branding, is something we should explore.  Consumer behaviors are evolving, and the landscape is shifting. Advances in technology leave us asking an important question. Which is more impactful – emotional connection or convenience?

 

The short answer is both. But let’s dive deeper.

 

The purpose of branding is to create an experience for the consumer – to tell a story that establishes an emotional connection. Emotions can exert a more powerful behavioral effect than purely rational decision-making. If a consumer has a great experience with a brand that activates a core emotional response, they begin establishing a valuable sense of loyalty. When consumers are truly engaged, they become an advocate for your brand and are more likely to amplify the message.

 

We live in a world of noise. Content is king, and it is EVERYWHERE. Consumers are more accessible than ever. And so are brands. Let’s look at social media. With the advent of these information superhighways, word travels faster than ever. It’s up to the brands to keep pace. Social channels provide a unique opportunity for brands to create and sustain the aforementioned emotional connection. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have afforded businesses the opportunities to build communities around them. Making customers feel important creates brand loyalty. However, these are still relatively new waters for brands to explore. Some choose to dip a toe and test the temperature, and others dive right in.

 

2 words: CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT

 

To understand how impactful social media can be, let’s look a fast food company that’s been making a lot of noise on Twitter for some time. Wendy’s is a center of many a debate regarding how communities should be managed on social channels. Why, you ask? Let’s suffice to say their methods are…unconventional.

Wendy’s has gained attention by roasting critics on Twitter. It’s an unusual strategy in corporate social media marketing where marketers and customer service teams typically worry about appeasing customers and being politically correct. The fast-food chain is quick to contradict anyone who question its slogan that its beef is “fresh, never frozen.” In one heated exchange about how it delivers fresh beef, Wendy’s responded “you forgot refrigerators existed for a second there.”

 

When one user wrote “you’re food is trash.” Wendy’s responded: “No, your opinion is though.”

 

When another asked for directions to McDonald’s, Wendy’s replied with a photo of a trash can.

 

The irreverent Twitter comments have attracted extensive attention on both social media and traditional media. As I said, unconventional. But has it worked? And if so, why?

 

Well, their sarcastic approach certainly isn’t hurting sales. Over the approximate four-year period of its social media campaign, the company has reported 15 consecutive quarters of positive same-restaurant sales. Another measure: in the past year, Wendy’s Co. stock has soared over 40%.

 

Mind blown? Let’s break it down. We previously discussed the process of Building a Cumulative Advantage, with designing for habit as the second step. Social media is habitual. We are constantly checking our social channels for the latest and greatest…and funniest. Wendy’s has simply found its own method amongst the madness. They’re directly engaging their customers on social media, while gaining a lot of free publicity. Sure, it’s outside the box as it relates to conventional branding. But that is exactly the point. They have found a way to establish an emotional connection with humor. People love to laugh. It makes us feel good. And while we wouldn’t necessarily recommend trashing your critics on social media, it seems to be working for the fast food juggernaut.

 

When simply put, the formula for establishing a emotional connection with consumers has shifted, and a little creativity goes a long way. “The best part of waking up” was once “Folger’s in your cup” and a newspaper. Now, the best part of waking up for many us is popping a K-cup in and seeing whom Wendy’s is trashing on Twitter.

 

Which brings us to our next talking point – convenience. Let’s continue with the coffee theme. Millions of people start their day with a cup of coffee, or in my case, several. This is a fundamental opportunity for a brand to create that emotional connection. We associate our coffee with starting the day on the right foot. For many of us, getting up in the morning is difficult, especially on those chilly mornings when our warm, comfortable beds have us trapped. Folger’s harnessed the power of these emotions in an inventive way. Remember the ad campaigns you’d see on TV with people waking up to the smell of a fresh pot of coffee? I bet many of related to this sentiment. They even told you “the best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup.” How delightful. But what if you live alone? Who’s making your coffee and creating that smell that fills up the entire house to entice you out of bed?

 

In the 90s, Keurig gave us a more convenient solution – a single-serving brewing technology known as the K-Cup. Problem solved. No more wasted time or wasted coffee. Convenience incarnate. Consumers already had an established emotional connection to a cup of coffee, and Keurig presented a more convenient path. Now, you can most likely get your favorite blend in a single-serve K-cup, because other brands recognize the impact of convenience.

 

These concepts can be applied to any brand when properly gauging the climate of consumer behavior. Habits are self-generated. They evolve from a decision and are modified with repetition before becoming automatic. They eventually become part of our value system. If you can establish an emotional connection with your consumers, brand loyalty will follow. However, accessibility, and more specifically, technology presents a real threat to brand loyalty.

 

What is important to note that while habits die hard, they do die. In branding, convenience kills habits. Convenience is about speed, predictability and ease. And it can be difficult to combat. So what’s the solution?

 

To create a connection between your brand and your customers, engagement is essential. As previously discussed, social media provides a platform for businesses to build communities around their brands. But it’s not enough to create a Facebook business page or a Snapchat account. To build a sustainable following, actively engage your online communities by posting captivating content and being responsive. If consumers are commenting on your posts, comment back! If they’re sending messages your way, reply in timely fashion! These personalized touches lends themselves to building relationships with your customers and creating that emotional connection to keep them coming back.

 

Personalization is something you should be incorporating in your email marketing, as well. To navigate your way through the traffic in your customers’ inboxes, your content must be creative and dynamic. Incorporating tools like surveys and contests will encourage your customers to engage, and it makes them feel like they’re a part of your brand – like they’re connected.

 

Sound like a lot of work? It is, but it pays dividends. And luckily, companies like SellUp are here to help you strategize and execute email programs to increase customer acquisition and retention. When you’re sick, you go to doctor, right? SellUp has the medicine to improve the condition of your email marketing.

 

Emotional connection will always be an important nuance in branding, but now more than ever, brands are competing to present more convenient access to their products. It’s not just about solving a problem anymore. It’s about solving it fast. It’s about being the convenient solution. So, brands have to continue to do what works, and do more. To stay ahead of the curve, one must understand where the curve is headed. And while this is a challenging road that continues to wind, those providing ease of access are catching up quickly. Consumers want to feel that emotional connection, but they expect more from brands these days. And it’s because brands are giving it to them. If you want your customers to keep coming back, start a conversation. Engage. Offer convenient solutions. Be a resource.

What’s the Value of a Like? Social media endorsements don’t work the way you might think. (Via Harvard Business Review)

by Leslie K. John, Daniel Mochon, Oliver Emrich, and Janet Schwartz

 

Every year, brands allocate billions of dollars to social media marketing campaigns, in the hopes of increasing revenue. Marketers suggest that consumers are likely to buy more if they follow a brand on social media. Marketers need to utilize both push and pull marketing strategies to gain revenue from customers through social media. Companies have to support likes with branded content to connect with their most-loyal customers.

Check out this article from Harvard Business Review’s March / April issue to learn more about the value of a like.

Building A Cumulative Advantage (Part II): Keep It Simple

Building a cumulative advantage is a process that requires precision and perseverance. In Part I, we discussed the importance of becoming popular early and some methods that have proven effective, and we also addressed consumers as creatures of habit, stressing the significance designing your brand experience for habit. The evolution of technology is responsible for creating new consumer habits – for our purposes, digital habits. In this segment, we’ll address these habits, discuss the dilemma of changing your brand, and conclude with how to effectively communicate with your following.  

 

Digital habits have created new opportunities for companies to employ the aforementioned tactics. Facebook is the most common example. The interface, while slightly altered to enhance the viewing experience, has maintained the same design and color scheme since its inception. Consumers can identify a Facebook page from a mile way, because the layout is just that – identifiable.

 

Consumer behaviors are quite possibly the most valuable metrics a marketer can study. This information identifies trends, indicating how consumers spend their time while online.  Regarding traditional marketing and advertising methods – TV, radio, print, etc. – brands must rely on antiquated methods, like surveys, to obtain similar data. With advances in technology, the analysis of consumer behaviors (digital habits) forms a more definitive roadmaps. Enter the phenomenon of retargeting.

 

Retargeting is a form of digital, targeted advertising by which online advertising is targeted to consumers based on their previous internet actions. Essentially, consumers view products and services on social media and across the internet, and then the ads follow them around, as to appeal to consumer habits and impulses. Have you ever viewed a pair of shoes on Amazon and then noticed the same pair of shoes popping up on Instagram and Facebook? You’ve been retargeted.

 

Because the interfaces of these service providers appeal to consumer habits, advertising and retargeting efforts become white noise. We know they’re there, but they’re not bothersome. This is only achieved when consumers feel comfortable. So, what happens when a brand feels it’s time to make a change? As discussed in the first entry in our series, The Art of Balance, it’s time to innovate inside the brand.

 

Through dynamic marketing efforts and tireless analysis, you are well on your way to building a cumulative advantage over the competition. You’ve become popular. You’ve designed your brand to appeal to consumer habits. Now, all you have to do is keep it simple. Yet still, some brands choose to shake things up and make changes to attract new customers, which often times results in breaking the consumer habits you’d worked so hard to establish. Technology is breathing down the necks of brands all the time. It whispers, “Stay relevant. Keep with the times. Update your logo. Try something new.” Technology is an invaluable asset to brand strategy, but it can also mean a brand’s demise. To avoid pitfalls of change, play it safe – innovate inside the brand.

 

Facebook vs. Myspace

 

Similar platforms. Similar functionality. So what happened to MySpace? Why did Facebook become the phenomenon it is? Answer: innovating inside the brand. In 2008, Facebook overtook MySpace, boasting 600 million users, for one simple reason. Facebook let the market dictate where it went and innovated inside the brand. On MySpace, users could modify and customize their profile pages. So, all user pages were different. If you remember a few paragraphs back, we discussed the importance of consistent design and branding. Facebook listened. All user profiles look the same, and users are given the freedom to do what they like within the standard interface. At a bird’s eye view, MySpace tried to dictate the market, made too many changes, and gave their users too many freedoms to create a cumulative advantage. Facebook continues to innovate inside their brand, constantly adding features like Live video and new apps, and in turn, they have developed an entire subculture within their business model. Change consistently, and you can consistently change.

 

Lastly, communication should be clear and concise. Don’t make consumers think too hard about your brand and the services offered. We live in a world that moves very quickly. The attention span of your target audience is limited. Capture their attention directly, and be clear in your messaging to complete the cycle of cumulative advantage. There is a tendency in today’s advertising climate to be artful and complex, but then, the power shifts and your brand’s success will be contingent upon the attention of the consumer.

 

Cumulative advantage is not a new concept, but the habits of consumers have changed and will continue to change. If content is king, convenience is its high-maintenance queen. The most successful brands continue to find innovative ways to answer an age-old question – how do we offer the best resolution to a problem? While some argue that cumulative advantage is a nonfactor, negated by accessibility to technology, I’d argue that technology can and will bolster the process of building a competitive edge, when coupled with thorough analysis and careful implementation. It’s time to pay closer attention to the way consumers want to receive information.

 

To review:

 

Become popular. Everybody loves “FREE.”

 

Design your brand to cater to the habits of your target audience.

 

Change can make or break your brand. When necessary, innovate from within.

Communication is paramount, but keep it simple with clear and concise messaging.

 

Brand responsibly.

Building A Cumulative Advantage (Part I): Popularity & Designing For Habit

In sociology, the Matthew effect, also known as accumulated advantage, is the phenomenon where “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” This concept translates to marketing in that companies who develop a competitive edge and become popular early on are more likely to become more popular, succeed over time and sustain their success. There are arguments that cumulative advantage is a dying art in the advent of technology, but we’re here to examine the process and, perhaps, prove that technology can actually be a catalyst for sustainability for brands that chose to embrace new trends and employ the latest innovations.

To further understand cumulative advantage, let’s address the phenomenon of going “viral.” When you hear about or come across a video with over a million views on YouTube, for instance, there is an innate desire for most to see why this particular video has drawn so much attention. You are more compelled to watch a video that develops a reputation and has an impression on so many of your peers versus a video with 5 or 10 views. This is the concept of cumulative advantage.

This is one of the mechanics of word of mouth and something that clearly sets us up – as marketing strategists – to think of the world in which we’re living as highly dynamic. Today, we are highly connected, and data travels fast. This is why I would venture to say that cumulative advantage is not dying. It’s just more difficult to harness. With so many information highways at a marketer’s disposal, the pressure is in a choice – which do I choose?

This is the opportunity that we have today. Everything is a living lab, where we can watch our target markets operate in nearly real time, with stacks of algorithms and analytics at our fingertips. Running a marketing program is more about optimization today than it is about initial insight. It is about flexibility and the ability to think quickly and recognize patterns as they begin to emerge. We are creatures of habit, and to establish a competitive edge and build a cumulative advantage, marketing must appeal to our habits in a dynamic way.

Let us now look at what it means to become popular. As stated in the recently retired CEO of Proctor & Gamble, A.G. Lafley, and professor at and the former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto,
Robert L. Martin’s 2017 Harvard Business Review article, Customer Loyalty is Overrated, “Marketers have long understood the importance of winning early.” How do many industry juggernauts “win early”? Providing value free of charge. The HBR article references Tide as an example. “When it was introduced, in 1946, (Tide) immediately had the heaviest advertising weight in the category. P&G (Proctor & Gamble) also made sure that no washing machine was sold in America without a free box of Tide to get consumers’ habits started. Tide quickly won the early popularity contest and has never looked back.” In the era of digital technology we need not look far to observe how this trend has evolved.

Facebook. Twitter. Google. Amazon. Recognize these names? Of course you do. And they are all free services – deliberately engineered to offer a service that people want. The more people want it, the more popular it becomes. Then, providers and advertisers follow, because everybody wants to be where the consumers spend their time.

Becoming popular is the first step in building a cumulative advantage for a reason. Marketing is a numbers game. Get the people’s attention, and the masses will follow. How often have you been offered a free trial for a paid service? People love free. And then idea is that once consumers are hooked, they are more likely to pay. As I said, we are creatures of habit.

This leads us to our next step – designing for habit. This is such significant element of branding that we’ve decided to dedicate an entire entry to The Power of Habit. Stay tuned, but for now, let us scratch the surface. Marketing should never leave the outcome entirely to chance. Consumers have compulsions, and the most successful marketing efforts take advantage of these compulsions, respectfully. As customers, we want our purchase decisions to be easy, and we actually make most purchases automatically. That’s why the subscription model has become so popular in so many industries. We don’t need to consciously decide about routine purchases.
It’s all about gaining Cumulative Advantage — once you gain a small advantage over the competition, it grows over time as purchasing your product or service becomes a habit to customers.

Make it easy to buy, and make your product memorable. The most successful brands have consistent elements of product design that can be seen from a distance so buyers can find the product quickly. Take Tide, for instance. You’re walking down the laundry detergent isle in the supermarket, and Tide stands out. The logo resembles bull’s-eye, as to say to the consumer – “You have hit the mark!” Distinctive colors and shapes for the product and logo make it easier for customers to make the habitual choice. Memorable messaging in as few words as possible goes a long way.

In our next segment, we’ll dive deeper into consumers’ digital habits and discuss how your brand can communicate clearly and effectively to sustain a following. For now, remember becoming popular early is the foundation for establishing a competitive edge. Once you’ve earned popularity, the idea is become habitual. Building a cumulative advantage doesn’t happen overnight, but if you play your cards right, appealing to your target audience’s need for convenience, your brand is well on its way.

In preparation for what will follow in Part II, let’s review some key points:

  1. Becoming popular is an uphill battle. Word of mouth has evolved. We live in a world that is overrun with options. Technology creates opportunity for small entities to gain traction through cost-effective methods. Accessibility has evened the playing field, forcing brands to be more creative than ever to earn popularity.
  2. Understanding consumer behaviors is the key to designing for habit and creating a following. In its simplest form, marketing is an opportunity for a brand to create its customers. The task then becomes managing and continuing to nurture those relationships. Staying relevant is perhaps the greatest challenge of all. Consumers may like the feeling of having options, but there is a reason the easy choice is, often times, the most popular. A choice that’s convenient AND fulfills a need is really no choice at all. It just makes the most sense.

There is a fine line between becoming the habitual choice of your consumer and becoming an afterthought, however. This is the line we will venture to examine in PART II. With new choices presenting themselves every day, the struggle to maintain relevance can easily become a pitfall. Brands feel the pressure, make rash decisions, changes to their brand identity and messaging, and in some cases, this can lead to the dismantling of the popularity and following they’d worked so hard to cultivate.

Avoiding these pitfalls is more fundamental than it may seem. Stay tuned as we offer our insights in Part II as to how brands can use the momentum outlined in this segment to sustain their cumulative advantage and successfully nurture customer relationships.

The Art Of Balance

Light bulbs. Batteries. Motor Oil. These are all things that require changing, and there are clear indications when they need changing. Changing a brand, on the other hand, can include more complication and consequence. So, when do you change your brand, and how much do you change it? Should it be subtly refreshed or totally redesigned? Branding strategies are meant to guide the consumer in the direction of a convenient choice that fulfills a need, and, in turn, becomes habitual. And while habits die hard, technology presents new and interesting options to consumers every day, which begs the question – how do brands stay relevant? The key: innovating inside the brand.

For the sake of this segment, let us assume we’re addressing brands that have successfully defined their value proposition and target audience, became popular, and implemented a design to harness the power of consumer habit to form a cumulative advantage. (Take a breath). What’s a cumulative advantage, you ask? Stay tuned, as we’ll break this concept all the way down in our upcoming series. Essentially, it’s a competitive edge that compounds over time. However, advances in technology are challenging this tenet. Brands are being forced to constantly review their approach, delivery, and other strategic principles in an effort to stay relevant, while keeping their base comfortable with the brand they’ve learned to love.

Creating a great experience as a brand means staying relevant when our world is moving a million miles a minute. When your brand is relevant, it makes sense to your audience. The problem is, audiences are changing now more than ever – not necessarily the demographic but their preferences. Our behaviors change depending on trends and technology, which changes the way an experience is created and distributed.

Accessibility has majorly changed how consumers purchase, and therefore, has changed the dynamic of branding and the landscape of brand loyalty. Technology is the primary catalyst for change in branding. So, staying ahead, or at least with the curve as things change means increasing the probability that consumers will stay connected and engaged, regardless of their preferences or habits. When a brand creates a great experience that is contextual, nimble in the face of change, and continually valuable, consumers will keep coming back.

But how far is too far? Sometimes less is more, and a simple change to accommodate your audience’s need in a more convenient way involves a mere implementation of new technology to give your audience something familiar in a new way. We’re witnessing an evolution in branding that has shifted away from customer loyalty toward convenience.

I think back to my childhood. The weekend arrived, and I used to love to go to the video store to pick out new movies. There was something to the aesthetic – being surrounded by walls of cinematic history, exploring what seemed like endless options. People don’t have time for aesthetics these days. We want what we want when we want it. And as consumers, we look for the most convenient access. Enter Netflix. A reasonable monthly subscriber fee and a mailing address later, and the endless options are in your mailbox. Video stores, like Blockbuster, tried to compete, but the market was cornered quickly. And that was only phase one.

Phase two. Now, I wasn’t in the room at Netflix headquarters, but I’m assuming a very simple, age-old question was asked: how can we better serve our audience and improve the ease of access to our service? Answer: digital streaming. To be concise, I haven’t laid out the entire evolution of Netflix in a timeline. The important thing to note is this – they innovated within the brand. No logo change. No relaunch. No major design implementation.

Simple solutions. It’s easy to lose your brand identity when rebranding, and sometimes customer loyalty will carry you through. Consumers want to keep coming back. They want to feel comfortable, until comfortable becomes stale or inconvenient. Improvement is the remedy for indifference.

As A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin aptly state, when referring to Netflix in their 2017 Harvard Business Review article, entitled Consumer Loyalty is Overrated – “For customers, improved is much more comfortable and less scary than new, however awesome new sounds to brand managers and advertising agencies.”

An emotional connection to a product or service will always be asset to a brand’s success, but constant changes in technology have more brands consistently working to upgrade ease of access to their products, while maintaining the connection that originally attracted their audience. And therein lies the challenge. It’s easy to succumb to the thought that your brand may need more than a simple improvement, and next thing you know, the brand your audience has come to know and love is nearly unrecognizable. This can be a major pitfall.

The advent of the internet and advancements in digital media and technology have transformed how consumers experience the promises that brands make. They have also transformed our ability to shape and co-create those experiences and to tell millions of other people about our experiences – good, bad, or indifferent. But brand owners have had to face transformative challenges before. And the brands that pull through are those that do what they must to stay relevant, while staying true to the experience
they’ve created.

Such transforming factors have, though, never changed the fundamentals of brand building: gain continuous insight into what your customers want, understand how they want it, know how the purpose of your brand helps them, be clear about your promises and deliver them brilliantly.

Take IBM, for example. IBM does not sell computers any more, but its brand purpose is still driven by the same insight that Thomas R. Watson had in 1915 – that ‘information technologies would benefit mankind.’ Today, IBM speaks publicly through its advertising of a purpose to create a ‘smarter planet,” and they continue on that journey with technology in the sidecar. Sometimes improving your brand means trimming the fat to improve focus.

The best brands have adapted to the changing needs of society, not just to the individual needs of consumers in that society. In fact, they anticipate the needs of tomorrow’s society. Technology is the primary force dictating these needs. To stay relevant, brands must pay attention. Consumers have to trust you before they jump. But once they jump, it’s a brand’s job to keep them from landing and looking for the next leap. Innovating from within your brand is an impactful way to improve the consumer experience, when done with proper planning. Sometimes, that includes major improvements, and other times, less means more. Either way, fail to plan, plan to fail. Stay relevant, yet familiar. That is the art of balance.

No More Athleisure, Brick And Mortar, Made in China? How Fashion Will Change In 2017 (Via Fast Company)

The tectonic plates of the fashion world are moving. Here are four shifts to expect next year.

Change is afoot in the fashion industry.

We’ve already seen glimpses of how the tectonic plates in the fashion world are moving. In one of Fast Company’s best-read fashion stories of 2016, we explored how some of the premium U.S. fashion brands of the past—Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren—have lost their luster.

They’re losing ground to a new generation of direct-to-consumer brands that were born on the internet, including Everlane, Cuyana, M.Gemi, DSTLD, American Giant, and Vrai & Oro. These companies are offering something different from the flashy designers of yesterday: the insight into their supply chain and sometimes even a breakdown of their sales margins, providing the customer with a better understanding of the quality they’re getting for their money.

Over the next year, we’ll see how these online brands continue to transform the fashion landscape. We’ll see big shifts in brick and mortar stores, fashion supply chains, the athleisure trend, and the idea of value.

1. Brick and Mortar Makes A Comeback

Awesome online and in-store experiences give rise to the “super customer.”

When online shopping took off a decade ago, pundits predicted that physical shops would disappear. It turns out that brick-and-mortar stores have remarkable staying power, but their purpose has fundamentally changed as fashion brands try to figure out how physical retail outlets fit in to the shopping experience. “Brands are thinking about what the internet cannot give you,” says Katia Beauchamp, CEO of beauty subscription service Birchbox, pointing out that digital tools now allow you to come close to seeing, touching, and even trying on products.

In Beauchamp’s view, the one thing the internet does not provide is human contact. She predicts that in 2017, customers will increasingly visit stores to get curated experiences from shop representatives. For brands to meet this demand, they need to have well-trained staff who understand products inside and out and can offer personalized advice.

We will also see a rise in experiential retail, according to Michelle Cordeiro Grant, the founder of underwear brand Lively. To encourage consumers to spend time in their stores browsing their products, brands will get more creative, adding amenities like bars, coffee shops, and yoga classes. In other words, stores will become more like entertainment spots for people who share similar lifestyles and interests to spend time together. “There will be an emphasis on physical brand experiences that will enable consumers to engage with not just product, but brand ethos and community,” she says. “The main objective of this kind of blending will be brand awareness, but the scope and reach will be much more than what’s been traditional. These experiences will be leveraging what is happening with social and taking it offline.”

Direct-to-consumer luxury shoe company M.Gemi says that fashion companies that understand how brick-and-mortar intersects with digital will see the rise in the “super customer.” M.Gemi launched a pop-up store in New York earlier this year and found that customers who had a good experience in-store would eventually spend more online and return fewer products than digital-only customers. Similarly, digital customers who went to stores would purchase 33% more in-store than new customers. “The website and the store seemed to be mutually reinforcing,” says Cheryl Kaplan, M.Gemi’s president.

Now M.Gemi is making the most of these insights by opening additional shops and creating a more seamless experience between digital and brick-and-mortar. For instance, a customer will be able to leave a store and find all the shoes that she tried waiting in her online shopping cart. “This is just the first of many ways we’re experimenting with bringing these two experiences together,” she says. She believes these efforts will generate even more “super customers.”

2. We Finally Ditch The Term “Athleisure”

It’s just how we dress.

Last year, the “athleisure” trend became so widespread that the word was officially added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The awkward portmanteau refers to athletic clothing that can be worn during leisure activities (i.e., everyday life)—a style kickstarted by Lululemon, creator of yoga pants you could wear to brunch. In the last few years, dozens of new athleisure companies—Bandier, Outdoor Voices, Alala—have entered the market, selling high-performance activewear designed to be worn outside the gym.

But ironically, just as the term enters the official lexicon, some say it won’t be necessary because athleisure has become so ubiquitous. “In 2017, athleisure as a concept will simultaneously cease to exist and be everywhere, as it is assimilated into consumers’ lifestyles and wardrobes,” says Denise Lee, founder of Alala. “I see it becoming less of a trend and more of a normal way of life.”

Gregory Lowe, the founder of Fitbox, an activewear subscription service in which Rebecca Minkoff has recently invested, concurs. “It is not a trend,” he says. “It’s a new way of life sparked by millennials’ interest in being stylish and comfy at the same time.” Lowe thinks that from now on, all apparel brands will be designing clothes with comfort and performance in mind, while the athleisure market will continue to become more complex. Some lines will focus on fashion and luxury (see: Prabal Gurung Sport and Cushnie et Ochs’s capsule collection). Others, such as Adidas’s line, will be primarily focused on using advanced technical materials.

Nina Faulhaber, the cofounder of the athleisure brand ADAY, also believes that customers are increasingly looking for high-tech garments they can wear to work. “In the post-athleisure world, consumers want the benefits of athleisure without the ‘I just went to the gym’ vibe,” she says. “Comfort and versatility will be hiding in everyday garments. The less of a spandex look, the better.”

This year, ADAY launched a pair of leggings that are designed to be worn throughout the day, even in professional contexts. Made of moisture-wicking fabric, they have a matte finish that does not look like nylon or spandex and have lots of useful features, including special pockets for your cell phone. One woman wore hers in a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Faulhaber says.

3. Value Matters More Than Labels

Customers are smart and want to know what they are paying for.

In 2010, Warby Parker and Everlane were among the first brands to make transparency a key part of the customer experience. They offered products at lower prices than designer alternatives, and emphasized the importance of quality through brand storytelling. They explained that by cutting out middlemen and selling through their own channels, they could save the customer money.

These days, customers expect to know exactly what they are paying for. Many upstarts that recently entered the market—bag brand Oliver Cabell, denim brand DSTLD, jewelry brand Vrai and Oro—have all adopted the direct-to-consumer model. “Quality and value are increasingly sought after, more so than specific brand-name or luxury-brand status,” says Karla Gallardo, founder and CEO of women’s fashion label Cuyana. “This is a new type of ‘value’: It no longer necessarily means low prices for low quality, but rather low prices for high quality—made possible by being direct-to-consumer.”

Gallardo believes that over the next year, companies that build their business model on making large wholesale margins will struggle to compete with this new flock of brands. Consumers are also losing interest in big discounts since they often come paired with lower-quality products. Gallardo says that brands struggling to survive in this shifting landscape—including J.Crew and the Gap Brands—will need to rethink their entire supply chain so they are making high-quality products with the best materials, then selling them at the best possible prices. This means not only being “direct-to-consumer” but also “direct-to-supplier.”

4. Made In America

More production is returning home.

President-elect Trump ran on a platform of bringing more jobs back to the U.S. by eliminating free trade deals. It’s unclear whether he will actually follow through on these promises—and whether Congress will work with him to bring them to fruition—but the fashion industry is already thinking about how such legislation could change their business. The majority of U.S. fashion brands have moved production to Asia, where labor costs are lower. But there’s been a shift in recent years as a wave of startups have chosen to make products in U.S. factories because it allows them to better monitor quality and take advantage of the most recent manufacturing technology. The possibility of higher tariffs on overseas manufacturing may prompt more fashion brands to follow the startups’ lead and head back to the U.S.

Bayard Winthrop, the founder and CEO of American Giant, a brand that makes all of its products in the U.S., believes that the U.S. government’s efforts to bring more jobs back by introducing tax breaks and benefits is only part of the solution. American companies need to be able to make products locally so efficiently and cost effectively that they are able to compete with foreign manufacturers. “The focus needs to be on fostering competitiveness,” he says.

To do this, Winthrop says that fashion brands need to reimagine every aspect of their supply chain, so that they are able to make a high-quality item at a good price. This sometimes means upgrading factory technology so that the machines are more efficient and require less human intervention. It might mean sourcing materials locally to cut down on shipping costs. “Brands that are nimble and driving change have much lighter cost loads and are freed from this accelerating downward pressure,” he says. “There is room for them to be responsive and innovative.”

The good news for companies committed to making products locally is that U.S. consumers welcome this change. They want high-quality products, which American factories often can deliver more easily than their Asian counterparts because of U.S. access to cutting-edge technology. According to the 2016 McKinsey Millennial Survey of 11,000 U.S. customers, quality was a top driver of purchasing behavior. As a result, the “fast fashion” model, which was fueled by cheap overseas manufacturing, is waning. “The more time you spend wearing or even just looking at fast fashion as a category, the more aware you become of the shit quality,” Winthrop says. “This idea of ‘newness’ is dampened by poor make. The signal change is that a growing segment is purely interested in quality, less is more, and owning fewer things.”

DSTLD, an L.A.-based denim brand that makes most of its products in local factories, has made the same observation. “[Customers] are looking at where items are made, how products are made, and the materials that go into each product,” says cofounder Corey Epstein. He says the brand has found that customers are attracted to its commitment to sustainability, zero sweatshops, and reducing the impact fashion is having on the world.

In the upcoming year, Epstein thinks that companies and consumers will both take a “less-is-more” approach to fashion. “More and more brands are focusing on smaller, more timeless product lines,” he says. “We’re not trying to make the cheapest white T-shirt, but the most well-constructed, best-fitting, softest T-shirt, at the absolute best price.”

 

Credit: Elizabeth Sevran for Fast Company

 

Movable Ink: Market in the Moment

The way marketers are using technology to deliver content with context is rapidly changing to improve user experience. Integrating dynamic content and contextual technology allows businesses to deliver a personalized, real-time experience to consumers.

Movable Ink, the global leader in contextual email technology, is on the frontlines of this revolution. When asked about the importance of advancement in contextual technology, a representative of Movable Ink stated, “Email marketing as a whole is becoming customer-centric. Consumers now expect contextually relevant email content that meets their immediate needs. As a result, more brands are embracing advanced contextual technology – like real-time behavioral and contextual targeting – to create email campaigns that cater to their customers.”

Partnership

SellUP as a Movable Ink Partner leverages a Program that inspires, enables and empowers both companies to drive customer success. SellUP plays a key role in Movable Ink’s client relationships. “(Our partners) often serve as the trusted advisor or the full-service arm of (our clients) digital program. Agencies like SellUP are able to bring their expertise and understanding of a client’s program to the best-in-class platform Movable Ink offers. Collaborating, we’re able to power innovations across each client’s digital program.”

As part of the partnership agreement, SellUP customers can utilize Movable Ink’s services in lieu of any setup fee or annual commitment.

SellUP recently put Movable Ink’s technology to the test for their client, swimsuitsforall. A major challenge retailers face when marketing to their database is the presentation of stale information. When presenting an offer by way of conventional email marketing methods, the recipient has limited time to act, and therefore, the retailer has limited time to convert. Movable Ink alleviates this concern by giving retailers the ability to include real-time countdowns for offers, change the creative, even after it’s been opened, and present alternate templates depending on the time of day. SellUP was able to have total control of swimsuitsforall’s creative to ensure customers would be presented with an offer that was current each and every time they opened the email. The concept is simple – no more expired offers means more converted promotions.

During a 3-day period, SellUP pushed out several derivatives of the creative, including relevant offers while removing promotions as they expired. The email creatives included timers counting down to the end of the sales. The final version of the creative that was sent out presented a “last chance” promotion, giving customers a final opportunity to take advantage of the offer presented.

The results speak for themselves. Using a segment of both buyers and non-buyers in swimsuitsforall’s database, SellUP conducted A/B testing, sending half of the list the dynamic creative and the other half a static email. Movable Ink’s dynamic creative did not disappoint, generating 30% more orders than the static email.

How It Works

agileMAIL, Movable Ink’s next generation platform, allows users to effortlessly build beautiful campaigns, featuring captivating imagery, live content, and a host of other marketing utilities. “Our product powers the most sophisticated email campaigns using CRM data, open-time context, and customer behavior. Our clients rely on Movable Ink to power a wide range of campaigns, and are using multiple features in each to create the best email experience possible. Customer success and innovation is at the forefront of Movable Ink’s business.” Their efforts delivered over 6.5 billion content impressions during Cyber Week 2016, alone.

An intuitive interface allows users to pull in personalized, live and streaming content directly from a public or authenticated websites, RSS feeds, or an API call. From the moment you hit send, the real-time experience begins for your consumers.

Users also have access to a centralized library of content and an arsenal of real-time email marketing utilities, including embedded video, local maps, weather forecasts, countdown timers, and more, making your emails a resource for relevant content to each consumer in your database.

agileMAIL also makes testing and optimization an effortless, yet meaningful process. Content optimization and enhanced targeting features based on time, location, weather, and other dynamics, takes the guesswork out of testing, and allows its users to stay focused and update their campaigns accordingly as their consumers interests, behaviors, and locations change.

Insight

Movable Ink’s trademark platform allows users to track and analyze factors like time, location, and device impact and influence email marketing engagement and results. Users can also view campaign performance and trends in your engagement funnel over a period of time, both aggregate and individual levels, and gain cross-channel conversion insights by setting up conversion indicators across email campaigns and the sites to which they are attempting to drive traffic. With agileEMAIL, you can monitor your campaign’s progress in real-time.
“Personalized emails receive 2.5X higher click-through rates and 6X more sales than those without,” stated a creative representative. “Let’s say that during the months leading up to Christmas your company traditionally sells $200,000 worth of products through email marketing. If we were to extrapolate the above stats, personalizing your emails could help you turn $200,000 into $1.2 million. Your mileage may vary, true, but personalization is one of the best ways to optimize your email program.”

What’s Next?

Movable Ink is always looking for additional ways to innovate within each customer’s business. “Driving greater personalization and more enhanced real-time experiences continue to drive stronger engagement on those communications. Looking ahead to how (Movable Ink) can bring in more behaviorally-driven content is on the radar.”

Since 2010, Movable Ink has powered 200 billion live content impressions. More than 400 companies, including The Wall Street Journal, eBay, Finish Line, and Saks Fifth Avenue have entrusted them to “market in the moment” and drive ROI. Their partnerships, with companies like SellUp, allow them to extend their reach and build mutually beneficial relationships across the email marketing landscape that continue to flourish and change the way you receive and interact with your emails.

Movable Ink was recently ranked No. 56 on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™, a ranking of the 500 fastest growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and energy tech companies in North America. They also debuted at No. 14 on Crain’s New York Business annual FAST 50 list, which features New York’s 50 fastest-growing and most innovative companies based on their winning business strategies, and most importantly, astronomical revenue growth.

For information, visit www.movableink.com.

10 Years Later – Ecommerce Is Back In Fashion (Via Startups.co)

A chat with Andy Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos, on better fitting pants, $100M in capital, and why men should embrace a world run by women.

Ten years ago, Andy Dunn was at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He was torn between taking a high paying job and following the lead of Brian Spaly– a classmate who was selling better-fitting pants out of the back of his car.

That company would become Bonobos, a promising survivor in an otherwise graveyard of so-called “ecommerce 2.0” upstarts.

Spaly and Dunn had a contentious falling out; with Dunn keeping Bonobos and Spaly going on to build (and sell) TrunkClub. Dunn is still plugging away with Bonobos, hoping to reinvent the way brands are built in an online world.

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He says he’s now confident that Bonobos will survive. But continuing to build it into a stand-alone ecommerce company is another matter. An even bigger challenge: Making it into a company that “means” something.

I’ve interviewed Dunn off and on since 2010, when he raised his first institutional venture round. I’ve seen him get distracted with building out ecommerce divisions and a women’s brand only to spin them off subsequently and focus back on the menswear core.

I’ve also seen him turn into a great entrepreneur and one of the few cheerleaders the ecommerce world had… well, before Jet and Dollar Shave Club’s massive acquisitions suddenly made the category look hot again.

He’s funded some 15 other ecommerce companies, advises even more, and serves on the board of three others. For better or worse, Dunn is all in on Bonobos and ecommerce generally. I caught up with him on a recent trip to New York and we reflected on his ten year slog. The following are edited excerpts of the conversation.

Sarah Lacy: You are ten years into Bonobos. How do you feel ten years in about this bet on pants? Do you still feel like betting on pants should be your life’s work?

Andy Dunn: The more I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs, the more I think it’s really, really hard to make something that is better enough for your company to ever really matter. The reality is that Brian Spaly did that. He made something better enough for enough people that our company had a reason to be.

A lot is made of the fact that we’ve done it in a new way with the Internet driven brand thing– or digitally native vertical brands to give a name to that ecosystem. Now every vertical has one to five of these up and comers.

But that wouldn’t matter. That wouldn’t be the story of Bonobos if we didn’t start with a great product.

So better fitting pants have been a conduit to create a better way brands are built. Without them, there’s no Bonobos, and I don’t even know what Warby Parker or any of these brands would look like if we hadn’t made that bet.

SL: Really?

AD: I was talking to Dave Gilboa (of Warby Parker) today, and he was talking about coming to visit Bonobos in 2009, and he was like “we are going to do this in eyewear.”  We had the privilege of building an Internet-driven model because we had  a product people actually cared about.

SL: And that’s the antidote to Amazon? That’s the only way you build something in an Amazon-driven world, right?

AD: Someone asked today at this thing I was speaking at, “What’s the most important part of the term ‘digitally native vertical brand’?”

SL: That’s such a business school term, by the way.

AD: It’s such a dorky term.

SL: It’s painful.

AD: It’s a totally nerdy term. My belief is you can’t beat Amazon by selling other brands. The only exceptions to that have been Zappos, Diapers.com, and Jet, two of which went to Amazon, and one was about beating Amazon and now has a shot because Jet was acquired by the only company that has a better supply chain in Walmart.

SL: OK, let’s talk about this, because we suddenly see that ecommerce….

AD: …It’s back in vogue! What’s up, now?

SL: …you guys have been so shit on for so long.

AD: I know

SL: …and now suddenly two of the big billion dollar-plus exits have been ecommerce, and that could be three if the rumors on Honest bear out.
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AD: Speaking of Honest, people are dishonest about the apples and oranges differences between building a brand and building a channel that sells other brands. And if you build a channel that sells other brands, your best bet is to sell to someone else.

That’s what Zappos has done. That’s what Jet has done. That’s what Quidsi has done. That’s ultimately what Zulily ended up doing. The only one that hasn’t done that since Amazon is Wayfair, and let’s see what happens. Fab is gone. Gilt? Gone. Hudson’s Bay?

One Kings Lane? Gone.

And I remember all these people saying, “Why can’t you grow as fast as fill-in-the-blank?” And I would say, “It’s a totally different business.” Selling a bunch of other people’s stuff is a low margin game that requires a lot of capital and ultimately, and it’s hard to beat Jeff Bezos at that.

Compare that to the idea that you can build a brand that is at its core digitally natively distributed. What’s fun about Dollar Shave Club is they’ve actually proven you can. Michael Dubin proved that someone would actually want one of these brands, and I think there will be more.

The only problem with the model from what I’ve learned is it takes a long time to build a great brand. I’m in my 10th year. We now have what could be a great brand. It’s not too good to be true. You have to actually care a lot about what you are making and put in ten years of heart and soul.

SL: And why is that?

AD: It’s the Ben Horowitz article: Nobody cares. Nobody cares about your brand. Just because you have a strategy for how to build it, and an idea for how the product is different. You have to find a way to tell the world. How do you get the world to care about what you are doing? That’s hard work.

And I actually think it’s harder work if you are digitally native, because you create your own distribution. We put our product in Nordstrom, and it’s been awesome for us. We’re now the #1 best selling chino in Nordstrom. Wholesale happened like that [Dunn snaps] but building a direct to consumer relationship is really tough. And the truth of the matter– if you look at people who have gotten to this scale– Warby, Casper, Bonobos, Dollar Shave, just to take those four examples– we’ve all raised north of $100 million in paid-in capital.

SL: Did you need all that money though? Or did you waste a lot of it?

AD: I think if I could go back, I could do it on less, but I don’t know how much less.

SL: It’s hard to know because so many mistakes lead to successes, how do you pull them apart?

AD: Correct. And I think a lot of that money was required to build audience, whether we did it efficiently or not. And so I think the better question is who has done it that hasn’t had to raise that much money, and I only have one answer: Tuft and Needle. That is the only digitally native vertical brand that has gotten to significant scale– I can’t say what because I’m not a founder there– but as an advisor to them, I can tell you that they are ridiculously big, relative to the paid in capital of the company. They invested $6,000, and they have an amazing asset. I tried to invest but they didn’t need the money.

SL: Ok, let’s talk about NastyGal, which was very much that story…

AD: NastyGal isn’t a vertical brand, so it’s actually a different [thing]. If selling other brands is apples, and making your own brand is oranges, NastyGal is a banana. Because what they do is sell other brands that are hard to find and build a brand identity around it and now they are trying to make their own brand. So NastyGal and ModCloth have the same strategy but not the same as either of those poles.

SL: So Bonobos is ten years in. Have you built a “brand” yet?

AD: I think we’ve build a brand that is known for fit and service and, maybe, fun in menswear. That’s cool. That will get you customers and a business, and a business that we think is now turning the corner into being an independent sustainable business. That was not evident [before]…

SL: …So you feel confident about that now? The sustainability?

AD: I have data about that now. Last time we raised money was July 2014. Now, what I want to do is build an enduring and an iconic brand, and that’s harder. That’s not about standing for the sum of the parts. That’s about more.

Think about Patagonia; you think about conservation. Think about Tesla; you think about sustainability. Think about Apple; you think about creativity. Think about Chanel; you think about unattainable luxury. The great brands stand for more than just products or services. I think this concept of what is happening with the male gender… who is contributing to that conversation in an important way?

So we just did a video with Jimmy Butler, who is an amazing guy. He was abandoned by his dad when he was 18 months old, a typical African American male story. Then his mom kicked him out of the house when he was 13 reportedly saying “I don’t like the looks of you.”

And yet, he found his way to college. He went to community college. He was not a particularly impressive basketball player for his first two years. He started to show some promise and was drafted 30th by the Bulls after his senior year. Now just a few years later, he just won an Olympic Gold Medal in Rio and is going to be the face of the Bulls and is just an amazing guy. He’s a tornado of positive energy and charisma and, for me, is a tremendous inspiration.

SL: So that’s what you want to stand for?

AD: I want to stand for guys who are trying to be like that.

SL: So you don’t want to be a “bro” brand?

AD: No

SL: Do you think you are a “bro” brand now?

AD: I don’t think so. I think we definitely had some roots there.

SL: This sudden resurgence in ecommerce companies getting bought… is it good for you? As a late stage company that at some point may need more money is it good that brands like Dollar Shave Club have an exit? If Honest sells for what’s been rumored, it will be underwater valuation wise, but that will be three $1 billion-plus ecommerce exits this year.

AD: I think it’s good, because I think we went through an era where there were so many ecommerce stories that were bad. And a lot of people were painting the sector with one brush.

And there was no other sector where there wouldn’t be nuance to the story. That wouldn’t be the case with SAAS.

If you look at ecommerce, it’s a bunch of dudes who make investments who don’t know the first thing about retail, and they are thinking the whole thing is just people buying stuff online. And the reality is there are very different strategies.

SL: A bunch of dudes, plus Forerunner’s Kirsten Green, whose first three deals were Bonobos, Birchbox and Warby Parker, and was also invested in Jet and Dollar Shave Club.

AD: Well, God bless her…

SL: She stuck with the category and has suddenly now emerged as one of the top VCs. You’ve gotta be proud? Happy?

AD: Proud and happy and grateful to have her on our board.

SL: She took the long hard way to be a VC. She scraped together special purpose vehicles to invest in companies one-off before she proved she could raise a fund. No big firm gave her a shot.

AD: She did. We joke that we grew up together [since Bonobos was one of her first deals.]

SL: You two have a special bond…

AD: …It’s more than business. She had a lot of naysayers for a long time, and now she looks like a pioneer.

SL: So what would make you happy in five years Bonobos-wise?

AD: It’s a different answer than it used to be. The answer used to be, ‘Hey, here’s my business plan’ or this is how big we want to be. Now I just want to be a brand that matters in the world. I want to matter. Because I think people have plenty of stuff. They have too much stuff. It doesn’t make them that happy.

SL: But how do you measure that? Because ostensibly you matter to some people now…

AD: We matter as a function of the fact that you get up in the morning and need to wear clothes. We want to inspire people, and I actually think we’ve inspired a couple of entrepreneurs because of our model. But I want our consumer to be inspired to belong to what we are building. It’s a really murky journey because you don’t want to be pedantic, but the Jimmy Butler campaign is the beginning of us having a voice on this.

I don’t want to compare myself at all, but when Steve Jobs came back to Apple and said “Think Different” and put up Mahatma Ghandi, it was like “What are you doing? I thought you were selling Macs?”

But he understood something important: That he wanted Apple to mean more than just a computer company.

When entrepreneurs start their companies they say all this stuff, they say things like “we’re not a pants company we’re a blah blah blah.” It’s like “No, we’re actually a fucking pants company.” That’s what we were.

But once you get to year ten, and you have a pants company and a shirts company and a suits company and an outerwear company, and you’ve reinvented how brands are build digitally and you’ve reinvented retail stores, because they don’t have to carry inventory, then you get to wake up and say “How did we actually inspire people?” And that’s what i’m trying to figure out. How to do that next.

SL: When I interviewed Brian Spaly in Chicago he talked about how efficiently he built Trunk Club.

AD: He was the first one in a lot of ways. He proved the multiple and the value of this in a lot of ways.

SL: Yes, to your point: He raised $12 million in equity and sold for $350 million. So should companies like yours raise as much money as you did?

AD: Most entrepreneurs are not as uniquely and creatively scrappy as Brian Spaly. I mean, he is a unique human being. Even when we were together under the same roof at Bonobos, he always had an instinct for fiscal conservatism. It was more of like a bootstrapper mindset than you normally see from people who raise equity capital.

Normally you are one or the other. You are either a bootstrapper, or you raise and go for it. And he’s a really weird hybrid. He’s comfortable taking other people’s money, but he’s really scrappy. I think there should be more entrepreneurs like him who say, “How do I build something awesome with $20 million or $30 million in capital?” But I think it’s usual. You have people like Sophia Amoruso (of NastyGal) who have nothing and then boom! They have a ton of equity, and it’s a new ball game. And then you have people like Michael at Dollar Shave Club who raised a lot of money in a short amount of time and built an amazing asset. It’s hard to find people who are in between. Spaly is a special guy.

SL: But for the time we live in, Dollar Shave Club has been conservative. It never had a $1 billion valuation, so $1 billion was a great outcome.

AD: I want to be really clear about this, we’re in our tenth year, and we’ve never done a down round partly because we never thought our business was a software company. I think the danger is retail companies thinking they are software companies, and they are not. You have to have humility. You have to build into you that. Just because you can raise capital at a certain price doesn’t mean it’s wise.

SL: That’s all well and good as a hypothetical but, have you ever walked away from a higher valuation because you felt it wasn’t right for your business?

AD: Twice. I’ve been through a bunch of financings. It’s more let’s get the best investor we can. Sometimes the best investor doesn’t have the highest valuation.

SL: Right now, we are in an election where male and female energy is very on display. As a male brand, how do you think about that? How do you want to represent what masculinity means in a time like this?

AD: So our brand is named after a matriarchal chimpanzee.
There are five great apes: Bonobos, chimps, orangutans, gorillas, and human beings. Bonobos, humans, and chimps have a common ancestor, and bonobos and chimps only split off two million years ago. They were thought of as virtually identical for most of history then someone realized they are two species.

The only difference between the two of them is they are separated by the Congo River, which is impossible to cross. And they have speciated slightly differently over the last two million years.

They look the same but they have one massive difference: Chimps are arranged in patriarchal societies and bonobos are arranged in matriarchal societies.
Bonobos have no violent conflict and no observed killing each other and in chimp societies there’s plenty of violence and chimp-ocide. And if you watch a bunch of chimps, it’s like Hamlet.  The number two and the number three chimp team up and overturn the number one chimp.

[Silicon Valley lawyer] Ted Wang at one point said, “If you want to understand men read “Chimpanzee Politics,” and I did and now I do. And what you see with Bonobos is if you put women in charge, men behave better.

It’s true: Men are just like women except women have better judgement, more empathy, and they are shown to be better entrepreneurs in a apples to apples basis. They are financially more astute. They are just like men, only a little bit better. And yet we live in a world where men weigh 1.6-times what women weigh and a couple thousand years of history have weighed women down because of that.

That’s starting to change. And the rate it’s changing is accelerating. And I believe, as I’ve told you before, the next 100 years will be referred to as the female takeover. And by “take over” I don’t mean “Run for the hills, guys!” I mean, “Your life will be improved by the ascendance of women.” And should Hillary win, we will have the first time in human history that the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, and Australia are all women. So we’re finally catching up to Pakistan.

 

Credit: Sarah Lacy via Startups.co

5 Major Email Marketing Mistakes

Making your email campaigns perform like a rock-star isn’t easy. So many puzzle pieces go together to have a high converting campaign. If you are a small business owner trying to take it to the next level, we have some advice for you.

First you need to make sure you have a solid email marketing strategy in place. Make sure you have goals in mind, such as trying to get more opens, more clicks or more sales. This way you can identify if changes you are doing are helping or hurting your goals.
Consistency is the key to success. You want to stay consistent with your sending frequency. Build out a content calendar to maybe send your messages on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and keep with that plan. If you send on another day outside of your schedule then tie it to a specific event such as a holiday or birthday email.
While, there are many posts on best practices on email marketing let’s talk about what you are doing wrong.

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Bait and Switch Subject Lines
Your subject line is your first impression. It’s true that creative subject lines will get you clicks. Even statistics from convinceandconvert.com say that 33% of email recipients open email based on subject lines alone. But, the user will be left feeling scammed if your subject line has nothing to do with the content inside of the email.
Instead use clear and concise subject lines along with content that delivers. You can keep it catchy, creative and fun but make sure your email content corresponds. Skip the bait and switch subject lines for something more credible.

Examples of Catchy, Clear and Concise Subject Lines:

  • 50% off – Start Holiday Shopping Now!
  • 3 Recipes Under 300 Calories
  • Presale Code Inside for the Holiday Event
  • Top 10 Lipsticks under $10

Not Keeping Your Data Clean
The data you collect is the bread and butter of your business. Without that quality customer data you cannot communicate with your potential customer. Letting bad data in your front door is damaging your email campaign more than you realize.
Each bad email lead that comes in, harms your sender score. Maybe it was a typo that was unintentional or maybe the fake email address was deliberate. Your ESP closely monitors how many hard bounces you get because it reflects poorly on your business and theirs. Too many hard bounces can get you banned from your ESP.
Having a layer of protection in place can help safeguard your IP reputation and eliminate hard bounces. It is recommended that you clean up your database on a quarterly basis and that you also check your data at point of entry. XVerify is a great tool that can work with your existing webform and check email addresses in real time. Click here to learn more about email verification with XVerify.

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Unclear Branding
Switch up your email templates, but make sure you don’t lose your brand identity. Keep the email header consistent across all of your templates. Don’t change your logo colors or placement. Keep a clear branding identity is important for your long term success.
Remember that in addition to your content, offers and advice it is your brand’s personality that connects with your audience. It’s been proven that losing your brand identity will increase your number of unsubscribes. It could even be one of the reasons you see an increased amount of spam complaints. Customers feel more comfortable when things don’t keep changing each time they open one of your emails.

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Not Using Automation
Why are you not using automation? It’s 2016 and automation is available, low cost, and helps streamline your business. Automation helps alleviate some work off your plate so you can focus on other areas of your business. But, if you don’t use automation correctly it can really kill your campaign. You need to have the right plan in place before you even get started.
Setup a welcome campaign to automatically send your new subscribers a sequence of emails to get them familiar with your brand. This is going to help build brand awareness and gain trust with your audience. Don’t immediately try to sell them something, first become their friend. Provide them with valuable information.
Pre-schedule email campaigns so that you don’t have to work on them last-minute. Setup triggers to send special content to people who have ‘clicked’ on a link in one of your previous emails. Use segmentation to help them feel like the information that you are sending is more personalized to them and their needs. Using automation will save you time, and increase your revenues in the long haul.

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Sending at the Wrong Time
When is the best time to connect with your audience? Probably at a time that works best with their time zone. You don’t want to just put together an email campaign to a world-wide list and say send it off at 3pm EST. You might get most people within the US responding but what about all those others you are missing?
You want to be able to reach people when they are active in their inbox. If you have already been mailing to your list for a few weeks, your ESP might already be tracking this information. Check with your ESP and see if they have any options on delivering emails based on the subscriber’s time zone.
Again, we would like to recommend that you set up trigger emails. These are best because you can configure them to fly out to the subscriber as soon as they take an action on a previous email.
Consider this scenario – the user has not logged into the inbox in a week. They find an email from you last week and they click a link. Suddenly you send off a brand new email and they receive it because they are already spending time in their inbox. This is going to improve your open rate and your reputation as well as your relationship with the recipient.

 

Krista Barrack is an email verification specialist at XVerify. She helps digital marketers improve email campaign success through data verification. Outside of the office, Krista also enjoys traveling, fitness, reading, and listening to podcasts. Connect with Krista on Linkedin.

The New Generation: Technology in Email

Email marketing is constantly changing – evolving to accommodate the newest advancements in technology. How consumers interact with your emails is changing, and we want to keep you ahead of the curve.

In this series, we’ll be addressing some of the latest technologies in email marketing and profiling companies specializing in each. Marketing is about real-time personalization. We’ll be discussing ways in which you can deliver a customized experience for each viewer from start to finish.

As people engage with your brand, on your website, in a newsletter or campaign, they leave behind information with each interaction. This information tells us about their interests and preferences. Here are some tools you can use to customize your emails, and create a unique, real-time experience for your target audience.

Dynamic Content

Dynamic content is a term for the aspects of a website, ad, or email body that change based on the interests or past behavior of the viewer. It creates an experience that’s customized specifically for the visitor or reader at that moment.

Relevancy is all born from information. Not just demographic and contact information, but saved information about the materials that have mattered to a particular lead or customer across their relationship with your company. That data then fuels the technology and set of rules that assigns the right content to the right person at the right time.

Companies like Movable Ink and Power Inbox are harnessing the power of dynamic content in innovative ways. Pull in personalized, live and streaming content directly from a public or authenticated website. Include a real-time countdown for a promotion. Allow your viewers to track packages within the email. Utilize location, weather, and other live components to deliver a unique message having each subscriber wanting more. In the next installment, we’ll discuss how you can leverage the data gathered from your interactions with your audience to deliver laser-targeted content to keep your viewers clicking through!

Take Action In Email

We previously mentioned including package tracking within the email. This dynamic feature leads us to our next technology – taking action in email. It’s a tall task to keep a subscribers’ attention. Why would direct them somewhere else if you didn’t have to? Allowing viewers to take action within the email not only keeps their focus on your brand, but it also eliminates the distraction of being redirected to a website, landing page, etc. Time is a valuable. And convenience is a discount. Stay tuned as we profile how companies like Rebel Mail are making things convenient for consumers with seamless ecommerce integration in your email marketing.

Subject Line Technology

The subject line is the first impression your email makes. New technologies provide some keen insight as to how you can make a lasting impression on your viewers. Think of your subject line as the elevator pitch of the inbox. You have a limited amount of time and space to captivate your audience. Not to mention the elevator is very crowded and noisy. You have to stand out. And sometimes it’s not a matter what you’re saying – it’s how you’re saying it. Virtual subject line services, like Touchstone, will simulate your database and test for open, click, and delivery rates. Companies like Persado and Phrasee take it a step further and recommend subject lines to optimize your open and click ratios. They employ algorithms that generate precise word combinations to inspire your audience to act.

Product Recommendations

Product recommendations can increase customer engagement and retention. To achieve customer retention goals, it is critical for retailers to engage their audiences through customized marketing content. Online retailers can no longer rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to email marketing, as today’s consumers demand a personalized experience. Instead, retailers must gather, analyze, and apply data from customers’ online interactions and purchasing activities to create messaging tailored to where each individual is in the customer lifecycle.

You can create an engaging buying experience and increase brand loyalty with the use of product recommendations based on individual customer’s interests and actions. By offering personalized marketing content like behavior-based product recommendation emails, retailers can see increased engagement and conversions, such as substantial open rates and ROI.

Triggered emails. Triggered lightboxes. Triggered data. It’s all about timing when it comes to recommending products. We’ll be exploring the features of companies like 4cite, Rich Relevance, Sailthru, Maropost, and Listrak, as we continue our discussion on product recommendation technology.

What’s Next?

As we continue to follow the evolution of email marketing, we attempt to keep pace. The details are important. So, what we’re going to do is break down each of the highlighted technologies a bit further.

Next up: A Deeper Look At Dynamic Content.